Lars Eller arrived in Washington over the weekend and reported to Kettler Capitals Iceplex early Tuesday morning for an informal practice with a handful of teammates.
Eller acknowledged that he’s excited to get going with the Capitals. But there’s one thing about his new situation that excites him more than anything else: the opportunity to settle in at center on the third line.
“I’ve never hidden the fact that I like to play center the most,” said Eller, whose versatility sometimes worked against him in Montreal, where he bounced around the lineup. “In the past, the fact that I could play wing also, left or right, probably made it a little easier to move me around compared to other guys. It maybe wasn’t always best for me, but it was the best for the team at the time. You fit in and do your best. I have no regrets about it, not mad or anything.”
“But,” he added, “I’m excited to be playing in one spot, playing center. I couldn’t be happier.”
One reason Eller prefers center to wing is because he sees himself as more of a facilitator than a finisher.
“It’s easier to get involved in the game,” Eller said. “Being a playmaker comes more natural to me. Playing winger, you rely a lot on your center for you to get in the game. I feel good up and down the middle.”
Eller, who was acquired from the Canadiens at the draft for a pair of second round draft picks, is expected to bolster the Capitals’ bottom six forward group, which was exposed as a weakness in the playoffs.
Asked if he knows which wingers Coach Barry Trotz envisions him skating with to start the season, Eller said he has not had that discussion yet. Trotz, Eller said, has only told him that he's going to play center.
As for his own expections for 2016-17, Eller said he hopes playing one position will lead to greater consistency and help him unlock the offensive upside he believes that he possesses.
“I definitely think so; I’ve always said that,” Eller said of potentially putting up more points. “I think I have at times. There have been good periods. For me, it’s been about putting it together for a season. There have been some [lulls] where the points haven’t come. I know the upside is there. I hope I can bring a lot of that to Washington.”
Over the past three seasons, Eller has averaged 77 games played, 13 goals and 26 points.